Faces of: Tasha Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Settlement

The settlement is far outside the major town of Pokhara, west of Kathmandu Nepal and in the foothills to the Himalaya.

In the years 1959, 1960, and 1961 following the 1959 Tibetan uprising and exile of the Dalai Lama, over 20,000 Tibetans migrated to Nepal. Since then many have emigrated to India or settled in refugee camps set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Government of Nepal, the Swiss Government, Services for Technical Co-operation Switzerland, and Australian Refugees Committee.

Those who arrived before 1989 were issued refugee ID cards and benefited from de facto economic integration; however, more recent arrivals have no legal status and cannot own property, businesses, vehicles, or be employed lawfully. Many of these recent arrivals transit through Nepal on their way to India.

The largest settlement close to Pokhara is Tashi Palkhiel, about 5km northwest of Pokhara in the foothills of the Himalaya. The community is home to under 1,000 Tibetan Refugees in exhile; although the most senior population are the remaining who fled during the initial uprising. Jangchub Choeling monastery was created in 1963 by Lama Dupsing Rinpoche in order to meet the spiritual needs of the Tibetan and Nepalese population there. A small Tibetan carpet factory generates some income and jobs but is still economically depressed.

The Mayor, overseeing a village of under 1,000 residents. The Tibetan Refugees are Stateless Nationals which means they have no rights under Nepalese law. 

A Tibetan weaver creating hand made carpets out of yak wool. 

There were three women still working in this once thriving carpet factory. Two of the three are Nepali, essentially taking away the few jobs available to refugees even though the factory is on the settlement property. Obviously this is the reality of not-so-subtle political influence on this stateless population.

The carpets are for sale in the store and are of high quality and beauty. This small carpet was $700/USD.

One way to support such populations is to make purchases but the visitors to this community are few and far between.

Many of the young in this settlement were not born in Tibet. The seniors are some of the few remaining that made the trek across the Himalaya.

At the time of this photo in 2008 I was told this man was over 100 years old. 

Elders spend the majority of their day repeating mantras and saying prayers.

In 1963, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa asked Dupseng Rinpoche to leave Kathmandu for Pokhara in order to meet the spiritual needs of the Tibetan and Nepalese population there.

Families send their first born sons to the monastery at a young age to become educated. There is a time in the boys teenage years when they are asked if they want to continue on the path of the monastic life - for which they can accept or deny.

The village elders walk to the monastery to circle the room-sized prayer wheel.

Our host through the Tibetan Refugee Settlement. Visitors are welcome to enter the village on their own. There are home-stays and a small guest house for anyone wanting to stay multiple days on-site.



interesting people: Sara Quessenberry

Sara and I used to work together at the Real Simple magazine test kitchen when we were at Time, Inc. in NYC. Yet another amazing person I feel fortunate to have shared time with. Note: The following is an excerpt from The Good Neighbor Cookbook website which she co-authored. She is now working at doitDelicious.com and occasionally making headlines in The Enquirer as Jerry Seinfeld's love interest (for real not for real)...

About Sara:

Sara is very aware of the irony that she is coauthor of The Good Neighbor Cookbook yet lives in a 46-floor high-rise in New York City, where she knows barely a handful of neighbors. In her defense, she has spent her adult life cooking for others, first as a restaurant owner/chef, then as a recipe developer/food stylist for Real Simple magazine. She is currently food/web director atdoitDelicious.com, a website for beginner cooks. You can also view her work at saraquessenberry.tumblr.com.

Kitchen equipment I can’t do without: My grandma’s 70 year-old cast iron skillet.

Go-to dinner favorites: Fall: roasted cauliflower and sage pasta. Winter: roasted chicken with lots of lemon and garlic. Spring: lamb chops and mint sauce. Summer: sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, basil and grilled bread.

What I most love to cook: dishes that simmer: pasta sauces, curries, soups, stews.

Home-alone dinner: Soft boiled egg on buttered toast. If I’m feeling fancy, maybe some broiled asparagus, too.

Dream kitchen must-have: Counter space.

Good-neighbor pledge: To cook for the sweet old ladies who live on my floor.

Faces of: Kanchipuram, India

Kanchipuram is a rural village in the southern portion of India (Tamil Nadu). Through micro-lending programs, places like this thrive once they are able to secure loans for farming equipment and other small businesses. 

A village elder with his great-granddaughter. 

We were told the students at the Yes.Jay. Nursery and Primary School were child laborers at the nearby coal mine. The RIDE program was an NGO supporting schools like this to ensure these children received an education after working. Families rely on the $.50-$.80 a day their children may bring home in addition to the parents earnings.

These young ladies performed traditional dance routines learned at school.

Students in the Yes.Jay. School

I've always been transfixed by this little girl. She has a natural beauty and calm.

School allows these children to actually be children.

Small businesses empower the citizenry and help families in the community. This labor-intensive work will produce stunning sari's and tablecloths and other such material. 

A father in the village with his darling son. You could see the fathers hopes and dreams in the way he looked at his child.

 Kids from the neighborhood.

Kids from the neighborhood.

I love this image and it's as much to do with the scene as it is the unflinching stare of the girl, showing no vulnerability self-consciousness.

 What I love about this photo, and other cultures in general, is the genuine and physical affection that men show each other. It's very loving and caring, which in western culture can be viewed as a weakness in men bizarrely enough.

What I love about this photo, and other cultures in general, is the genuine and physical affection that men show each other. It's very loving and caring, which in western culture can be viewed as a weakness in men bizarrely enough.

This could be one of my all-time favorite photographs. There's an intensity and a softness simultaneously.

I'm not sure how many generations separate these two ladies but as with most Asian cultures, the grandparents take charge of the children while parents work.

This is a traditional kitchen found in these homes and communities. The enclosed fire shown here may not be as bad for families health as an open fire found in many third world communities, but they are still responsible for respiratory and related problems. MIT is among the thinktanks working to design a smokeless stove with the intent to improve the wellbeing of millions of people around the world.

Formal school uniform, no shoes required.

I love staring into peoples eyes and reading their emotions on their faces. Not something you can do casually but photography allows me that opportunity.

 NGO's like RIDE in Tamil Nadu, India are on the forefront of community organization. You can visit these organizations and even volunteer with them to get first hand experience with underprivileged or underperforming communities. We found microlending programs to be the most positive for both communities and families so learning more about organizations that support and train women in microlending can be a positive way of donating time and money.

NGO's like RIDE in Tamil Nadu, India are on the forefront of community organization. You can visit these organizations and even volunteer with them to get first hand experience with underprivileged or underperforming communities. We found microlending programs to be the most positive for both communities and families so learning more about organizations that support and train women in microlending can be a positive way of donating time and money.

how i got the shot: Carly Johann Cover

Triathlete Magazine January 2016

Carly Johann is a rookie professional as well as a fitness model. I photographed Carly in the studio doing some fake running (see below) but I reserved enough time to shoot at a previously scouted location in San Diego before sunset. 

I found my spot, made a mark for Carly to hit and set up my lights.  I used Profoto B1 lights so I could take advantage of the high speed sync. This recent miracle has improved motion photography for the better (if only they could improve the wattage). When shooting a moving subject, it's difficult to freeze the action with strobes while syncing at the maximum shutter speed (Nikon usually 1/200", Canon 1/160") .

I learned the hard way when I photographed Apolo Ohno for a cover long before. It was a similar situation shooting him running across the frame. If you thought Apolo was quick on skates, you should have seen him run for me.  He had his hands in blade formation and only had one speed - wicked fast. It was hard to find a suitable image that didn't have blur in it!

For Carly, I was able to shoot at 1/1000" at f5.6, ISO 400. This gave me enough ambient for the sunset sky while freezing the action. I chose a white beauty dish for the key light directly in front of her and used heads with reflectors for the rim and fill. I set my power output on the strobes to match the ambient so no key shifting.

Being an experienced fitness model, Carly easily hit her mark in stride and responded quickly to my hand and posture adjustments. That is usually the deal maker or breaker for a shoot like this. I learned to shoot wide for these to maximize the depth of field on a moving subject. This allows me to retain sharpness while I pan the camera (pre-focused). The large file size with the 36mp Nikon D810 easily allowed us to crop without loss as you can see with the image I posted. SEE LIGHTING DIAGRAM BELOW

If I remember correctly the studio shot was used inside the magazine. I've included the unretouched, straight out of Lightroom version here:

If I were to crop for print it would be slightly above the knees. This would be identical to a Women's Running Magazine cover.  I used 4 lights with umbrellas for an even blue background. The rim lights had medium strip softboxes with grids. The grids focus the light on the subject while reducing the bounce on the ceiling and floor. They're also ideal for minimizing flare in the camera lens. I used a medium octabank as the key light, with an intentional Rembrandt lighting pattern. The fill was my usual 7' octabank.

For these shots, I back  the model up close to the seamless.  I show them the mark I need them to hit and the stride I need at that exact moment. For every time they run towards me, I only get one frame and one chance to get it all right. It's a strength in numbers game but I have yet to meet a subject who likes the numbers to add up.

I've included the lighting diagrams below for each setup. They're hardly accurate or pretty. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about this shoot or anything else on my blog, please feel free to reach out!

Lighting Diagram of location shoot for cover image

Lighting Diagram of studio shoot

quote of the moment...

A creative man is fulfilled by accomplishments and a competitive man is fulfilled by beating others. I’m all about accomplishments. Ride the biggest wave. It has to do with me. I can always grow and keep accomplishing things.
— Laird Hamilton, big wave surfer

how i got the shot: Master Captain

Master Captain Roman Krstanovic

Certain people command respect. Sometimes it requires a cold, steely exterior necessary to be the master and commander of a ship circumnavigating the globe. In many ways, the captain is part celebrity (to the guests) and part dictator (to the crew). I had first sailed with MC Krstanovic in 2003 on my first journey around the world as the photographer with the Semester at Sea program. I was asked to take his portrait and I was very inexperienced and nervous. I had 30 seconds and the results reflected it. Terrible light, framing and execution.

Fast forward 5 years and I'm on the ship again ready to take his portrait for a second time. With some luck he remembered me from years before which automatically creates a familiarity and comfort. Krstanovic was at ease and I felt comfortable placing him where I wanted and taking the time (2 minutes) to get the shot right. 

This portrait is all natural light, taken somewhere between Brasil and South Africa. It was a wonderfully calm day. With moments to scout a location in the technical marvel of the bridge of the ship, I noticed a dramatic sky on the starboard side and the light was coming in from the stern of the ship. There is a small deck area off the bridge where captains overlook docking procedures. I asked the captain to join me on this deck and positioned him so the sun was coming from his back left shoulder. The outside area was painted white and had glass windows surrounding part of this deck area. The light created this gorgeous wrap from one wall and perfect fill light from the other. With a quick meter reading I placed the Captain in a strong position facing away from the camera while also creating a short-light Rembrandt lighting pattern.

I thought the image turned out perfectly with all the elements falling into place with natural light. Rarely am I so lucky to have proper dramatic light create itself without my interfering with light modifiers. I brought a physical print to the Captain later and he was over the moon with the results. We became quick friends and he would invite my wife and I to his private cabin for wine and cheese, buy us drinks whenever he saw us in the lounge and treated us like friends and royalty. 

I will forever remember the night in the Captains cabin when he recounted a portrait he absolutely hated taken by a photographer a few years prior. He was congratulating me on creating an image that truly spoke to his persona and ego. I felt quite proud. He may not have realized that the photo he distinctly remembered not liking was taken - I believe - by me...

A really weak-sauce lighting diagram because other photographers gave me shit for not being more technically specific in my blog posts.

musings: Rene Ricard on "The Radiant Child"

...you could never explain to someone who uses God’s gift to enslave that you have used God’s gift to be free.
— Rene Ricard, Art Forum 12/81
  An homage to the great horn players Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. - Jean Michel Basquiat

An homage to the great horn players Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. - Jean Michel Basquiat

“What’s with art anyway, that / We give it such precedence?”  Most basic is the common respect, the popular respect for living off one’s vision. My experience has shown me that the artist is a person much respected by the poor because they have circumvented the need to exert the body, even of time, to live off what appears to be the simplest bodily act. This is an honest way to rise out of the slum, using one’s sheer self as the medium, the money earned rather a proof pure and simple of the value of that individual, The Artist. This is a basic class distinction in the perception of art where a picture your son did in jail hangs on your wall as a proof that beauty is possible even in the most wretched; that someone who can make a beautiful thing can’t be all bad; and that beauty has an ability to lift people as a Vermeer copy done in a tenement is surely the same as the greatest mural by some MFA. An object of art is an honest way of making a living, and this is much a different idea from the fancier notion that art is a scam and a ripoff. The bourgeoisie have, after all, made it a scam. But you could never explain to someone who uses God’s gift to enslave that you have used God’s gift to be free. - Rene Ricard

how i got the shot: window to the soul

A million years ago when i was working at a studio in NYC, I decided to test the limits of a Phase One P45 back (when this was the newest technology). I found these photos and thought it would be fun to share.

I used a Hasselbad 555 body with an 80mm lens and 2x extension tube. I put a single head with a reflector camera right, put my subjects within a couple inches of the lens, blasted a flashlight in their eyes to close the pupil and brought this landscape to the screen. 

Light eyes like mine didn't have the same depth and detail as the darker tones. 

Eyes are as individual as fingerprints. Each example is a different friend. In Aron's eye above, you can see his long eye lashes reflecting back.

These images are cropped in but the P45 digital back could easily handle it. 

musings: my thoughts on an ugly world

I haven't seen the world in it's entirety. I haven't seen war in three dimensions. I haven't gone hungry a day in my life. I haven't struggled to protect my family from neighbors, government, or predators. I've never been subjugated or labeled as a minority or been forced to do labor for unfair or zero wages.

I have seen more of the planet than 99% of other inhabitants. I'm among an even smaller percentage (.01%) of people who have circumnavigated the globe on a ship. So what I have learned is that we are headed to an unsurmountable and currently unavoidable path to self destruction.

I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.
— James Natchwey

While it is true we are living in the least violent times our planet has ever seen, the violence we do see is still shocking and troubling when it's in our own back yard. The war on terror continues with our soldiers in harms way. When it's thousands of miles away we do seem to find it easier to disassociate: When it's communities we don't understand it borders on complete disregard. 

It would be impossible for humanity to agree on all things from religion to politics, yet we can all agree we deserve human dignity. I cannot state enough that I am generalizing, but our current world of war and atrocities is likely to be derived from either religion or thirst for power. 

I've been fortunate to see the apartheid era townships of Cape Town, South Africa. I've been fortunate to travel to predominantly Muslim countries at times when the US State Department all but forbid it. I've almost been robbed in Brasil. I've witnessed hungry children in South Africa. I've left a country hastily to avoid a Maoist Rebel takeover. These experiences haven't hardened my view, rather it has broadened my ability to see the world from others perspective.

The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.
— Thomas Paine

With this in mind, I harbor the most dislike and distrust for Americans who blindly hate, label and celebrate intolerance. Yes there are Extremists who are directly responsible for terror, but we should always rise above intolerance and recognize the small number of bad actors within the larger groups of peaceful and loving humans within a differing religious and political belief system. 

On our nations darkest days after tragedies like the Orlando, FL mass shooting, we gather in sadness and unite in anger. Our collective memories will dissolve over time but there will be families and friends of the victims that will carry the horror in their hearts and minds for at least a generation more.

Will the victims differentiate between international or domestic terrorists? Maybe temporarily. History will be the harshest judge and this time we live in will be remembered more for our inability to pass common sense laws on guns. It will be remembered for our country promoting and not shaming rhetoric from aspiring world leaders. Read that again, ASPIRING WORLD LEADERS. 

If we celebrate the Greatest Generation for defending human rights and dignity during the era of World War II, how can we disrespect their contributions and lives lost by reverting to the same thinking they fought to rid our planet of? How can we not see that same ignorance welling up within our own country? This doesn't exemplify any form of intelligence. It doesn't distinguish from "east coast elitism". It's an embarrassing lack of education and understanding that leads to our current divide.

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.
— Albert Camus

We have freedom of speech and we should always invite differing opinions and points of view. We also believe in intolerance for intolerance. Our entire progression as a nation is based on this fundamental concept. As we move forward as a nation beyond Orlando, the Boston Marathon and all other recent terrorist tragedies, let us not recede to McCarthy era paranoia and Hilter-esc hatred. We did intern Japanese Americans during WWII. Are we willing to relive that mistake? Registering Muslims in America is a small step in that direction but a big leap in our new normal of hatred and isolationism. "Let's Make America Great Again" is a slogan that will only be true if we reflect back on what we have fought for in the past - not regress.